By James Nelson
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The Mormon church on Friday expressed concern over a raft of state immigration laws and appeared to support a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants who "square themselves with the law."
The statement by the Church of Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ comes as U.S. states have shown increasing willingness to tackle illegal immigration -- an issue traditionally handled by federal authorities.
"The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved," the church said in a statement posted on its website.
"This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage."
The church said immigration issues must ultimately be resolved by the federal government.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is concerned that any legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God," the church said.
While the church did not endorse any specific proposal in its statement, it appeared to embrace the general notion of allowing illegal immigrants to earn their right to stay in the country legally.
"The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship," the statement said.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer touched off a furor in April of 2010 when she signed SB-1070, a law that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest.
A federal judge subsequently blocked the most controversial provisions of that law, a ruling that was upheld by a federal appeals court in April.
In March, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a package of four immigration laws, including an enforcement measure similar to Arizona's and a guest-worker program.
A federal judge quickly blocked the enforcement provision and opponents have said they will seek to repeal the guest worker program, which they say amounts to amnesty.
In May, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a tough new law cracking down on illegal immigrants that is similar to one enacted in Arizona.
And on Thursday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law a crackdown on illegal immigration that both supporters and critics consider the toughest in the nation.
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton)